Patrick Kane (left) and Artemi Panarin are both frontrunners for postseason awards. (Getty Images)

Blackhawks mailbag: Forecasting first-round foes, award winners

SHARE Blackhawks mailbag: Forecasting first-round foes, award winners
SHARE Blackhawks mailbag: Forecasting first-round foes, award winners

Jeb @youzeb

@MarkLazerus think the recent point drought for Kane/Panarin hurts their chances for Hart/Calder with Crosby/Gostisbehere streaking? #HeyLaz

I’d still be surprised if anyone other than Patrick Kane won the Hart Trophy. No doubt, Sidney Crosby has been phenomenal in carrying his team into the playoff picture lately. But remember, Kane did that for months at the start of the season. He also had the 26-game point streak. He also is threatening 100 points, which nobody else will even sniff. It’s a season-long award. Crosby is definitely in the conversation, and should be a finalist. But it has to be Kane, even with his downturn of late.

As for the Calder, it seems there’s been a season-long desire by a lot of people to wrest the award away from Panarin, who seemed to have it locked up early on, because he’s obviously not a typical rookie, with seven professional years in the KHL under his belt (Panarin bristles at the word “rookie,” for what it’s worth). But under the rules, he’s a rookie. So that argument is baseless.

Panarin’s doing himself no favors lately, with no goals and two assists in his last nine games. But he still leads all rookies in goals, assists and points. The Canadian voting body is going to lean hard toward Connor McDavid, I believe, with the current argument a semantic one over the definition of “most proficient rookie.” To me, if you miss half the season, in a season with so many great rookies, you can’t win the award. Others disagree.

In my mind, the only player with a real case against Panarin is Shayne Gostisbehere, because being a great rookie defenseman is more impressive and more unusual than being a great rookie forward. For me, as a voter, it’s down to Panarin and Gostisbehere. But don’t be shocked if McDavid wins out.

Crawford pls @BITW140

#HeyLaz who is the most important player on the Blackhawks rn

You’ll probably like this answer based on your handle. It’s Corey Crawford. He’s one of the two or three best goalies in the league this season, and he’s one of only two goaltenders who have won a Stanley Cup since 2012. Braden Holtby has been fantastic, and Henrik Lundqvist is amazing, and there are many other great goalies in the NHL. But as far as I’m concerned, come playoff time, it’s Crawford and Jonathan Quick, then everybody else.

Scott Darling might have saved the season last year when he won the Nashville series. But Crawford is the man, and you can’t replace him. Jonathan Toews is indispensable; remove him from the lineup, and the whole house of cards crumbles. Patrick Kane is unparalleled offensively this year. Duncan Keith, as the Hawks will learn the next little while here, is the engine that makes the Hawks go.

But the most important player on the Hawks? The most valuable? Come playoff time, it’s Corey Crawford.

Charles Javors @charlesjavors

#HeyLaz new PJ tour is about to kick off, any chance you get to catch a show this summer?

Oh, I’ll be at Wrigley Field. I don’t quite know how yet, because I’m a moron who let his Ten Club membership lapse. But I’ll be at Wrigley Field.

bailey @nachoSEABre

what are the odds the Blackhawks can sign shaw this summer? or will he be another cap casualty? #HeyLaz

It’s dicey. Artemi Panarin’s little swoon here helps. If he doesn’t make his bonus for finishing in the top 10 among forwards in scoring, that frees up a little more money for Shaw. But the Hawks will think long and hard about keeping Tomas Fleischmann, and maybe Dale Weise, too. Marcus Kruger’s big contract (he’s a terrific player, but $3.1 million for a fourth-line center is a lot of money) might have sealed Shaw’s fate. Joel Quenneville loves him. Hawks fans love him. His teammates love him. If they can make it work, they will. But it won’t be easy.

Daniela @tyroleancutie

Do you actually still enjoy watching Hockey? #HeyLaz

My parents visited for my daughter’s fourth birthday a couple of weeks ago. And my mom kept pointing at the TV and asking (loudly, because she’s from Long Island), “How do you watch hockey all the damn time?!” I love hockey. I probably “enjoy” it more when I’m watching a random game on TV and not working. But even watching 100-plus games a year from preseason to playoffs, I still love the sport. I imagine most of us scribes still do. This would be an unyielding death march of a job if we didn’t.

Steve Kass @stevenjoshwa

Why are you so insufferable? #HeyLaz

I try to cap these mailbags at about 3,000 words, and this one’s already approaching 3,500. So there really isn’t room to get into all the reasons.

dan larson @dannyp58

#heylaz is 7’s down season due to age and slowing down or who he paired with? Are his numbers are better when on the ice with with 2 and 4?

It’s funny. Brent Seabrook is having arguably the best offensive season of his career, thanks largely to taking over Patrick Sharp’s old spot on the top power-play unit. For much of the season, I’ve heard some pundits throw his name out for Norris Trophy consideration. But it’s hard to deny his defensive game has slipped. He deserves some slack based on who he’s been paired with. After years with Duncan Keith, one of the two or three best defensemen in the game, Seabrook has been playing with a rotating cast of rookies — Viktor Svedberg, Erik Gustafsson, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Seabrook doesn’t have the speed to cover for guys like that, the way Keith does. So that plays a role.

Seabrook has never been a possession monster, but this season, his Corsi rating is 48.2 percent at even strength, the lowest of his career. For comparison, in 2013-14, one of his best overall seasons, it was at 55.1 percent. I think working with rookies has played a big role. But if it’s speed and age, that’s a pretty big concern —he’s signed for eight more seasons at a cap hit of $6.875 million.

Brian Sandalow @BrianSandalow

What’s your level of concern about the Mets? #HeyLaz

I’m a Mets fan. I’m always concerned. But give me Harvey, legroom, Syndergaard, Matz and Big Bart against anyone in the National League, and I like the Mets’ chances. Just need someone in the American League to knock out those pesky Royals.

Also, I still have no idea what a Foundry is, Brian.

Kenny Blankenship™ @BR25x

#HeyLaz who is your favorite to win the Cup?

This will play into the comical Twitter narrative that I’m a die-hard Kings fan, but I’m going with Los Angeles. The Capitals have been phenomenal this season, but they’re still the Capitals. Like the Blues and the Ducks, I need to see them do it in the postseason before I truly believe. The Kings are built for postseason play, and they have the invaluable experience of winning two Stanley Cups since 2012. Plenty of legitimate contenders this season (very much including the Hawks). It’s going to be an awfully fun spring.

Phil Martello @Martello16

#HeyLaz how long until my #Sabres get to the postseason again?

Wish I knew. I’d be a rich man. But the good news is you’re in the Eastern Conference. And fortunes can change a lot more quickly over there than in the West.

Colleen @cmCubFan

#HeyLaz Creamy or Chunky peanut butter?

My entire life, I was a Skippy Chunky kid. I was damn near militant about it. If you even threatened me with a smooth peanut-butter sandwich, we were going to throw down. Then I discovered the joy of dipping pretzel rods in peanut butter (which, as a poor, young sportswriter in the Pittsburgh suburbs, was my dinner three or four nights a week) and realized JIF Smooth is the way to go. If I can change, and you can change…. EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE.

DK @HawkeyStick

#HeyLaz Who do you think will be the difference-maker in Round 1 this year for the #Blackhawks?

It might just have to be Scott Darling again. We’ll see if Corey Crawford really gets back on the ice this weekend and if he can get back between the pipes in time for the start of the series. But if not, the spotlight will shine brightly on Darling. Beyond him and the usual suspects, I like what I’ve seen from Tomas Fleischmann a lot. He strikes me as a guy who can score in bunches if he gets hot.

Jake Bartelson @JakeBartelson

#HeyLaz I’m interested in how you got into Pearl Jam? This comes from a non-listener.

I have a theory that whatever music you fall in love with around the ages of 10-12, that’s your music. And I was 10 or 11 when Pearl Jam broke big. I remember seeing the WORLD PREMIER on MTV (remember those?) of “Jeremy,” and my brain basically imploded. I had “Ten” on cassette (I’m old). I had to buy it three times because I wore it out so much.

Dee Jay Zachy Rose @zombi3zach

#HeyLaz which first round team would want the Hawks to play? Dallas, St.Louis, LA, or another team?

Anybody but Los Angeles. That’s the nightmare scenario for the Hawks. I think Dallas is a more vulnerable team than St. Louis, because I don’t trust their goaltending and their defense is hurting. Dallas wins by scoring a lot, and that gets harder to do in the playoffs. But I think the Hawks would rather face the Blues. As good as they are, the Blues have that mental block when it comes to the Hawks, while Dallas has had its way with the Hawks a few times this season. Though, honestly, neither Dallas nor St. Louis is a bad matchup for the Hawks. Depending on Keith’s and Crawford’s statuses, I’d probably be inclined to pick the Hawks over either. In the NHL, more than any other league, playoff experience counts.

olivia buzil @livbuzil

#HeyLaz predictions for the cup?? (final 2 teams & winner)

I predicted Ducks over Capitals in the paper way back in October. So I feel duty-bound to stick with it. If you gave me a mulligan, I might say Kings over Lightning. Maybe.

x- brooke @breadsman

#HeyLaz what’s the best thing you’ve heard artemi panarin say?

It wasn’t something he said, but a look he gave. When I was mentioning to his interpreter that he stood to make a couple million dollars in bonuses, his eyes bulged out and he exhaled sharply. That’s when I knew his English was really getting better.

Amanda @amandakegs

#HeyLaz If you had to pick just one, which arena would you take your daughter to?

Either Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center, because then I could dump her off on my parents or brother after the game and wreak some havoc in the city.

Scott J Kujat @Scott_j_k

#HeyLaz do you think the Hawks brass approached Hossa to retire at the end of last season to use his cap hit to resign Saad?

If Hossa retired at the end of last season, it would have been terrible for the Hawks. They would have been slapped with a recapture penalty of $2.625 million every year through 2021. They had their chance to get out from underneath the comically long contract Hossa signed with the two compliance buyouts afforded to them after the 2013 lockout. But they (wisely) chose to keep Hossa, and use the buyouts on Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz. The two Stanley Cups they’ve won (so far) mean that was the obviously correct decision.

Lynn Chen @lynnchen91

#heylaz why do you think none of the Canadian teams made it this year?

Too many Klondike Pucks. They weigh you down.

Michael Keenan @buckets3516

My 94 year old father saw the Hawks win their 1st Cup in 34. Is he still considered a Bandwagoner #HeyLaz

All Blackhawks fans are bandwagoners. Don’t you read the Internet? Jeez.

josie @josied24

#HeyLaz in all honesty, with the way things are going now, do you think that the blackhawks will make it past the first round?

Yes. I think so. I’m not super-confident in that statement, but I think so. Until someone other than Los Angeles beats them four out of seven, my money would be on the unkillable hockey zombies. You can be sure neither Dallas nor St. Louis wants to see the Hawks in the first round, no matter how bleak things look in Chicago.

Brit B. @bellabee13

#HeyLaz given a likely inevitability of another Hawks-Wild playoff series,what do you think MN needs for it to end differently?

This question makes me sad. Look, I love you, Minnesota. You have great fans, you have the best arena in the league, and I could die a happy man choking on a Cossetta chicken-parm sandwich. But I’m ready for something different. Please. Something different. Not another Hawks-Wild series. Anything but another Hawks-Wild series.

₲ @nobeeronlyvodka

#HeyLaz favorite player to interview who isn’t on the blackhawks?

Is it cheating if I say Antti Raanta or Michael Frolik? OK, fine. P.K. Subban, then. Unlike most players in the NHL who spout insta-clichés, Subban seems to really take in your questions, really think about his answer, and at least try to give you a truthful, thoughtful, insightful answer. It’s almost jarring when you’re used to the usual platitudes and canned answers.

Scott Kennedy @ScottTKennedy

#HeyLaz 10 years from now will it still be the 2015-16 regular season? It’s going to last for the rest of our lives, isn’t it?

Funny you say that. This season has gone by so much faster than any other one I’ve covered, besides the lightning-round 2013 campaign. Maybe because my second daughter was born the weekend training camp opened. I don’t know. But it seems like just last week I was on the circus trip.

Patrick Weed @deserthawk96

Any possible callup for Bickell or Rundblad before playoffs? #HeyLaz

I wouldn’t be shocked to see Bryan Bickell up as a Black Ace/In Case Of Emergency guy. You know Minnesota doesn’t want to see him. Rundblad seems unlikely. The Hawks have eight guys in the mix on the blue line already.

Luis @theponzischeme

#HeyLaz In hindsight, was trading for Fleischmann and Weise at the deadline a huge mistake for the Hawks?

I like Phil Danault as a player a lot, and I think he’ll be a good, Kruger-like player for a long time. Personally, that might not have been a trade I would have made. But in the here and now, the Hawks didn’t give up a ton. Fleischmann has been outstanding, and he’s someone I think the Hawks should try to re-sign. Weise is a proven playoff performer, and when he gets his chance, I imagine he’ll make something of it. If the Hawks flame out, sure, you can look back on any trade and say it was a bad one. But I’ll never fault a team for trying to win a championship, and that’s what that trade was all about.

elisabeth @its_elisaboo

#HeyLaz with Maatta having to serve his mandatory Finnish military service, it made me think about Teuvo. has he done his?

He has not. I believe he has to do his six months by the time he’s 30, so there’s lots of time. I’ll ask him next time I talk with him.

In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite stories ever, about Antti Raanta’s stint in the army.

Erin Paige @ErinPaigeA

#HeyLaz with only ~5 games left, what does your bracket look like? Which series would you most enjoy watching/covering?

I don’t have a bracket, but I’d love to see a good old-fashioned Islanders-Rangers series. Let’s bring back the hate that made me fall in love with hockey as a kid.

Ryan K @Roadkill823

What is the best part about your job and what is the worst part? #HeyLaz

The travel. And the travel. I love being on the road, I love exploring different cities, I love grabbing a drink with other writers, and I love racking up frequent-flyer miles. But I have two daughters, a 4-year-old and a 6-month-old, and being away 120 nights a year is rough on me, rough on them, and really rough on my poor wife, who’s basically a working single mom a third of the year. It’s a trade-off. It’s a dream job, one I’ve wanted all my life, and I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have it. But until you actually fly 90-100 times a year, you can’t really understand how bizarre this lifestyle is. Ah, to be 24 and single with this gig…

Derek Stainer @dstainer

ignoring for the moment the impending Keith suspension, what would your d-pairings be for the playoffs #HeyLaz



van Riemsdyk-Rozsival

When the Hawks were at their best this season, those were the pairings. You just have to hope Gustafsson can power through the rookie wall and find his confidence again. The player we saw in November isn’t the player we’re seeing now, and Gustafsson will be the first person to tell you that. He has it in him. He can be a very good player. And the Hawks need him to be.

Ben Burger @BenHBurger

#heylaz award predictions?

Well, I vote for many of them, and they don’t like us to announce our ballots ahead of time. So this isn’t necessarily who I’ll be voting for, but who I think will win.

Hart: Kane.

Vezina: Holtby.

Norris: Karlsson.

Calder: McDavid.

Selke: Kopitar (C’mon, Patrice, let him have one.)

Emily Seto @emmers712

#HeyLaz NHL GMs are apparently trying to figure out ways to increase scoring, yet a number of goals are being waved off in games. Thoughts?

I think the NHL wants more legitimate goals, not more bogus goals. I’m genuinely excited about the momentum behind this whole shrink-the-goalie-equipment movement. I think that’s when you’ll start seeing 5-4 games again.

Jenni @Panarin_72fan

#HeyLaz how do you go about booking all your flights and hotels? Do you book the whole reg season at one time?

I book all my hotels in one fell swoop in the summer, because I know exactly where I’ll be, when I’ll be there, and where I like to stay. Also, hotel reservations are easily canceled. I try to stay about six weeks ahead when it comes to booking flights. Flights aren’t refundable, so you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself.

Elissa @sarcasmpucktail

#HeyLaz would you OD on pizza and bagels if there were a Hawks/Rangers or Isles SCF?

I’d be a 900-pound rolling mass of carbohydrates, and I’d be the happiest blob alive.

GO HABSZINGIS @leshabs67

#HeyLaz If a fork is made of gold, is it still considered silverware?

Well, it’s considered silverware when it’s made out of stainless steel, so I’m going to go with yes.

Patricia Heins @pattiheins

#HeyLaz do you think any Canadian writers would withhold their vote on Kane for the Hart to keep an American from winning it?

No. No chance. Certainly not for that reason. They’re journalists, not jingoists.

josie @josied24

#HeyLaz are supposed to not believe anything you say tomorrow? #AprilFools

Yes. I’m pretty dumb, but I’m not dumb enough to risk any credibility I’ve built up over the years for a silly prank.

… or am I?

(No, I’m not.)

Emily Switzer @EmRoses4

What’s your opinion on Blackhawks fans always being on the precipice of mass hysteria? #HeyLaz

There are two reasons. One, because every fan base in every sport is always on the precipice of mass hysteria. If the Internet has proven anything, it’s that.

But the real reason is Hawks fans are spoiled. Absolutely spoiled. The Hawks have, I believe, the youngest fan base in Chicago, by far. Based on my Twitter interactions alone (scientific, I know), there are a massive amount of Hawks fans between the ages of 15-25. That means, yes, they probably became Hawks fans/hockey fans in the late 2000s. So all they know is rampant, almost comical levels of success. They don’t know how to handle losing, because they so rarely have had to.

Think about any fans that got hooked on hockey during the magical 2013 season. And they are legion. They’ve had two Stanley Cups in their three years of fandom. They’ve had 10 postseason wins. Their only failure was in overtime of Game 7 of the conference final in one of the greatest series in recent memory. So, sure, this whole not-being-the-best-team-in-the-world-all-the-time thing that’s going on this season? It’s going to freak them out. It’s understandable. You can’t learn to handle adversity until you handle adversity. Most of the fans that endured the 2000s have a little more perspective. (Most, certainly not all.)

Perspective and patience comes with time and misery. A huge chunk of the Hawks fan base hasn’t had much of either. They simply don’t know how good they’ve had it.

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